To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
– Phillip Adams
As we slide into November, we find the mood has changed along with the weather. The World Series is over and football is king. The year’s biggest holidays are near, when the kids will be out of school and families gather close again.
As snow dusts the mountaintops, wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience the seasons’ change with the family all around, enjoying the great outdoors? To enjoy those ‘rituals of reassurance’.
Of course, that’s not easy at home, with all the parties, visits by friends and neighbors, and all distractions of the wired world. How can you get young people to unplug and spend time with the family? Well, a quick escape to a dude/guest ranch might be one solution. Worried that you’ll miss the bargains at the mall? Well, if you haven’t started shopping by now, it’s probably too late anyway. (As of Thanksgiving Day, there are only 28 shopping days left before Christmas.) Solution: just get the family one BIG gift this year: time together on a ranch for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We have some suggestions. First, decide whether you want snow or sun, then make a list and check it twice.
Looking for some bragging rights at the office water cooler? Just tell them about your adventure vacation in Argentina (we suggest one below). Or consider a guest ranch set in the frosty beauty of snow country. Ranchweb members include dozens of ranches in snow country. Okay, so some folks would rather come back from their winter holidays with a tan instead of ski goggle marks on their cheeks, and for them the many ranches of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern climes beckon.
We offer some to start your ‘White Christmas’ or your “Sunny Holiday’ list with.
At some ranches, the season is nearing its end, at others, winter brings a renewal of spirit and a whole fresh list of activities, from horse-drawn sleigh rides to snowshoeing and skiing. If you’ve visited your favorite guest ranch only in summer, seeing it under a fresh mantle of snow is like seeing your high school sweetheart all dressed up for the prom—breathtaking.
Whether you seek snow or sun, we urge you to seek out Ranchweb.com for the widest choices of ranches open in November and December. Click on the Availability button to find out who has rooms available for your preferred week or weekend. We can’t possibly tell you here on the blog about all the ranches that are open each month, but the powerful search tools on Ranchweb.com can speed your search for the perfect ranch.
This month, we also chatted with Meris Esterly, of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in New Mexico, about what it’s like being new to the ownership of a guest ranch (the Esterly Family just celebrated the sixth year as owners of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch). For her, seeing the Land of Enchantment through the eyes of her guests is like seeing the state for the first time all over again. It’s both a voyage of discovery and a ritual of reassurance.
Find the snow
Home Ranch sits in the Elk River Valley, just beyond Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with the crest of Hahn’s Peak rising majestically in the distance. You’ll find it’s not unlike going back in time to a more idyllic landscape. No condos. No streetlights. Just Colorado as you hoped it would be, and as it once was. Or, as Home Ranch puts it “Big ranches. Blue skies. Real cowboys.”
You’ll find a host of winter fun here when the snow is generally at it’s deepest. Ski or snowshoe (guides and lessons available) on 30 kilometers of groomed trail around the ranch, enjoy backcountry guided trips. At day’s end, relax in a hot tub edged by snow, enjoy sledding or sleigh riding, sit beside a roaring fire, or dine on their famed Rockies cuisine in their renowned dining room.
Details: The Home Ranch (open December through March).offers five-day Christmas ski vacation packages every year, with gourmet holiday dinners and entertainment to match the holiday season. Vacations are all-inclusive. For more, please click here or call Johnny or Selina at 800.688.2982.
Vista Verde Ranch
Also close to Steamboat Springs, and the Steamboat Ski Resort, is Vista Verde Guest Ranch. A winter stay here layers all the benefits of a Colorado winter resort vacation over the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Your first decision: head for the ski resort for fabulous downhill skiing in their champagne powder snow, or stay on site for a full program of activities (included in your stay): cross country skiing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, horseback riding.
At Vista Verde, you’ll find there’s plenty of top notch gear available to make your winter activities all the more enjoyable, plus guides and instructors to tailor each experience to your interest and ability.
Staff members come around at mealtimes and you simply tell them what activities you feel like trying next. All you have to do is choose!
Details: Winter Carnival Package- Stay at the ranch during Steamboat’s Winter Carnival (Feb 5-8) and enjoy the ranch’s winter wonderland. Then they’ll then transport you into Steamboat and set you up with a discounted hotel room for Saturday night so you can watch the street events on Saturday, the night show that evening and then more festivities on Sunday morning in charming Steamboat Springs. Winter Carnival admission button included.
Valentine’s Day Romance Package-Start your Valentine’s Day off with breakfast in bed, followed by a day of as much outside activity as you desire. In the afternoon, they’ll treat you to a private sleigh ride complete with hot toddies to keep you toasty warm. Following that, the chefs will delight your taste buds with their Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac dinner. If evening finds you in the bubbling hot tub under the stars, that’s your call.
Lone Mountain Ranch
“Discover some Montana magic with your family this holiday season,” invites the Lone Mountain Ranch website. The allure is obvious: some 85 kilometers of meticulously groomed Nordic trails and 30km of snowshoe trails; ski and snowshoe rentals; Yoga programs; access to hot tub; entertainment in the ranch saloon and evening programs. Also available: a sleigh ride dinner; on-the-snow gourmet trail lunch (Jan-March); wine and cheese social. Draft beer and house wine is available by the glass. And there’s a Children’s program offered during the holidays.
Lodging is in one of 23 cozy log cabins or a room in Ridgetop Lodge. Western artifacts, log furnishings, vintage cowboy prints and patchwork quilts give each cabin a warmth and charm. Meals and snacks are included in most packages-just call to inquire.
Details: Their Downhill Package includes package includes subsidized downhill passes to The Mountain (Big Sky and Moonlight are now one resort), three incredible meals daily, lodging in a log cabin or a room in Ridgetop Lodge, an old fashioned sleigh ride dinner, entertainment in our saloon and evening programs. Call for full details. Can’t stay for a full week? Lone Mountain Ranch offers shorter stays throughout the winter. Transfers to and from the Bozeman, Montana airport, are available.
…or seek winter sun
Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch
If you can book quickly, you can enjoy one of the best deals around: Stagecoach Trails is offering a 50 percent discount for stays in November. Set within easy access of gateways like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon, Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is Arizona’s newest guest ranch.
As owners Dan and Carrie Rynders note, “We have worked hard to create a special, friendly atmosphere where you can get a glimpse into the old west while enjoying the beautiful northwest Arizona desert and all the peace and quiet one could hope for. We invite you to stay with us and be part of our ranch family, even if it is only for a little while.” Sounds like a perfect, stress-free Thanksgiving holiday to us! Details: Open year round except for June 1- July 15. Winter rates start at $120 per night.
Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch
Another small ranch (maximum capacity is 16) in the southwest is Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. This neat ranch is located on the Geronimo Trail, one of New Mexico’s Scenic Byways. Reachable by good roads, the ranch is four hours from either Albuquerque or El Paso airports, via a journey that will take you through high desert, rolling plains, and cool pine forests.
The Esterly family bought the ranch six years ago this month, and we recently talked with Meris Esterly to tell us what she loves most about being in the industry. “Being part of a guest ranch been great,” she says over our morning cups of coffee. “One of the best parts is meeting people from all over America and the world and showing them our beautiful New Mexico. Seeing it through their eyes, I get a fresh perspective on the ranch life,” she notes.
“Fall on the ranch is a really nice time to visit. It’s great riding weather!” The ranch is open March through Nov.27, this year, and you can snap up end of season deals. “We offer a ten percent discount on the week of Nov 21-27 but we only have one cabin left for that week,” Meris says, “but we have some cabins available for earlier in the month.” But you have to act fast.
Even next year is starting to book up. “We already have quite a few reservations, so reserve as soon as possible since we’re so small.”
“Our cabins are nestled in the pines; they’re are large but cozy with fireplaces, queen sized beds (and bunk beds), and covered porches,” says Meris. They also boast full bath/shower, sitting area with table and chairs, magazines and books, coffee maker, snacks and a cookie jar filled with homemade goodies. “They are comfortably furnished in a Native American style or a Cowboy motif, and you will have a cabin to yourself – we don’t mix groups.”
Wildlife abounds here in November. You might catch sight of bald eagles or waterfowl that overwinter here, and several bird species migrating south through ranchlands and nearby forests. They’re near the Gila National Forest , and wildlife includes mule and whitetail deer, black bear, Mexican grey wolf, porcupines, bobcats, ringtails, and coatis.
Details: open March through November, so they’re nearing the end of their season this month. Rates: adults $274/night for 3 or 4 night stay, 5-7 nights: $255/night, Children 4-11: $222/night, Non-Riders: $209/night, 7 or more guests: Call, click or email for special group pricing discounts.
Way down South America way, this intimate, 10-guest ranch offers all the best in adventure rides, good horses, and good organic home-cooked meals.
The main building is a Spanish style school house from 1870, now converted into a guest house. Owners say that “Our horses are friendly and responsive, and our tack is good quality. Rides vary; we sometimes ride into town for drinks, or visit a Serrano family or have a picnic next to a mountain stream. Or you may prefer hiking to observe local fauna and flora, or simply rest, read, sunbathe and enjoy life!”
Details: Open from July to April, this vacation is a plan-ahead experience, so start your research now.
The Resort at Paws UP
Take a ‘Safari’ without leaving the States. Remember all those Hemingway Africa stories where, after an adventure amongst the wilds, the tourists would nip into a luxury tent to change for dinner, and then emerge to find a lavish spread complete with fine wines?
That kind of rustic elegance is not hard to find in America—just head for The Resort at Paws Up. Whether you’re looking for a way to ease the youngsters into camping or the great outdoors, or just want something different that will give you a few bragging rights when you return from vacation, glamping at Paws Up is the answer.
First there’s the tent, which looks like something out of Architectural Digest magazine: comfort meets glamour. There’s high-thread-count bedding, electricity, first-class service, luxury amenities, world-class dining. There’s the River Camp, Creekside Camp, Pinnacle Camp, and Moonlight Camp–all with a Camp Chef and Personal Camping Butler to make sure you’ve got everything you could possibly need.
And by June this year, they’ll open their newest and most luxurious camp yet: Cliffside Camp. Paws Up describes it as “located across Paws Up’s famous covered bridge and atop a soaring cliff that overlooks the confluence of the Blackfoot River and Elk Creek, Cliffside Camp combines luxurious amenities with the Resort’s most stunning views to create the ultimate glamping experience in Montana”.
Set on a sprawling 37,000-acre working cattle ranch in central, western Montana, Paws Up offers 28 vacation homes and 30 glamping tent accommodations in all.
Details: Missoula International Airport is only 35 minutes away. Nightly rates start at $1075 (at the River Camp) and include meals and a mind-boggling list of activities, including guided activities, tons of riding, fun stuff for kids, winter sports, and wilderness workshops. Go fly-fishing in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, or try hiking, boating, or rafting.
For more detail and photos, check out the ranch on Ranchweb.com
Ranchweb and our own Gene Kilgore were featured recently in Canadian Living’s blog titled “Travel Talk: Family-friendly horse holidays” written by Doug O’Neill. The story included so many good tips on choosing the right riding or ranch vacation that we decided to pass it along.
Here’s what O’Neill had to tell his readers:
“Gene Kilgore, author of Ranch Vacations, is the go-to guy for the scoop on horseriding holidays, guest ranches, dude ranches and working ranches whether you’re holidaying in Canada, going to the United States or even further afield.
Gene is the equine-savvy expert who has provided all the horse sense (pun intended) behind www.ranchweb.com, which functions almost like a mini portal for all things related to horse-friendly vacations, and endeavours to match customers to the ranch or horseriding holiday that best suits their tastes.
We asked Gene a handful of questions sent in by our readers:
Reader question: How do I know it’s a bonafide, legit ranch? How do I check? What do I look for? Is there any kind of criteria to be met?
Gene Kilgore: If you’ve never taken a ranch vacation before, or if you need some guidance on where to start, we offer a handy check list of questions to help make the process easier. We suggest that people pose these questions to the individual properties, to gather more specifics on the activities and programs they offer.
A great way to find quality ranches is to see if they’re members of any associations. For example, many of Ranchweb’s British Columbia properties are also part of the BC Guest Ranchers’ Association whose members offer excellent horseback riding, a wide range of activities, and high quality accommodations and amenities.
Reader Question. “If my wife and I and the kids book into a ranch vacation for a week, what happens if we get bored or tired of horses after three days?”
Gene Kilgore: There are lots of activities available at most ranches for families that go above and beyond horseback riding. For parents worried about keeping their kids entertained, many ranches offer kids programs where their children can play, have fun with other kids, learn about nature, and enjoy the outdoors.
Some ranches have very extensive programs led by counselors that run from breakfast until after dinner, while others are designed to bring families together and integrate several activities and meals. If your family is keen to experience a range of activities during their vacation beyond horseback riding you’ll want to scope out each ranch’s offerings prior to booking.
Reader question: For the best scenery in Canada, what ranch vacation spots would you recommend?
Gene Kilgore: All of the Canadian ranches are incredibly picturesque, in my opinion. Think sweeping meadows, rolling hills, and incredible stargazing thanks to the clean country air. Many of the guest ranches in British Columbia can be found in the heart of Cariboo Country, in the interior of the province.
Ranches such as Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, in Clinton, B.C., Siwash Lake Ranch, set on 80,000 acres of pristine rangeland halfway between the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast of British Columbia, Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch, in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and Tod Mountain Ranch, in the southern interior of British Columbia, all offer peaceful and lush wilderness vacations.
Reader question: I like horse ranches and swimming. Could you recommend a ranch vacation in Canada where I could get time on a horse but also escape to a each every couple of days?
Gene Kilgore: If you’re a horse-lover who’s looking to stay close to the ocean, I suggest heading to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Tofino, Vancouver Island. There you can spend time in Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere on the western most edge of Vancouver Island, and on the one day you can go horse-back riding and whale-watching – and take a dip in the water.
Reader question: What wilderness camp would you recommend in Canada?
Gene Kilgore: Warner Guiding and Outfitting, shown below, is based in Banff, Alberta, and specializes in horseback riding in backcountry, deep into Banff National Park. Your companions will be seasoned cowboys who know horses and know the land.
Details: To search the detailed ranch directory to find the horse vacation to meet your wishlist, check out the Ranchweb directory.
I admit I was intrigued when I saw this on the website for Pennsylvania’s Malibu Dude Ranch:
“Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next rodeo star?? Sign up for one of our speed events and compete against other guests during our guest participation rodeos, held during major 3-day holiday weekends.
I knew the ranch had recently added a sanctioned arena and announcer stand so that they could host professional rodeos and shooting competition events (newsflash!). What I didn’t realize was that guests could also star in their own rodeo show!
Somehow I’m not surprised. That’s the kind of entertaining twist Allan “Doc” Detweiler and his wife Phyllis brought to the ranch when they bought it in 2010. In purchasing Malibu Ranch, they saved it from total destruction (a townhouse style residential community was one plan for the property), and in so doing, they saved an East Coast tradition.
And its all been onward and upward ever since. This day, it is 80 degrees, sunny and warm as Doc Detweiler tells me about how he came to own the Malibu Ranch. “I’m the ranch’s sixth owner—the last one owned it for 46 years!” he says. “I hope to God I own it as long!” Doc laughs. “I came to the ranch in 1974 as a kid—I wanted to be a cowboy when I was five. Now my whole family rides—my daughters barrel race.”
Malibu Dude Ranch is located not on the California coast near the iconic movie enclave of Malibu, but in the scenic Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, just 75 miles from New York City. When I ask how an East Coast ranch got the name of a California coastal town, Doc explains how the first owner (a rich Wall Streeter in the 1920s) had grown up in the California town and named his ranch after Malibu. Eventually, he opened it up to the public. Today, the 800-acre ranch offers something for all ages and tastes- from archery to fishing, skeet shooting and horseback riding galore.
Established in 1928, the ranch has a long history of entertaining guests: it is described as the oldest authentic working dude ranch east of the Mississippi River. Thanks to Doc and Phyllis, it still provides the Old West cowboy experience and horseback riding on woodland trails. The ranch suffered a fire in 1973 that took out the original lodge, but the massive two-story stone fireplace in the lobby is a survivor; it showcases the grand entrance to the lodge just as it always did.
Doc first visited the ranch as a youngster not long after the rebuilding that resulted from the fire. That ranch stay molded his young character and he credits it with helping him stay focused on goals later in life. Eventually, Allan became a doctor of family medicine with a main practice is in Long Island, New York (he also employs many physicians in five locations in New York, New Jersey, and Florida).
“I feel this ranch is a legacy, so there’s an obligation to keep this up,” Doc notes. “We’ve put in more than $4 million to renovate the ranch. We updated the entire infrastructure and added the arena, brought our own cattle onto the property, and added a Wild West show for the kids. Everyone who comes leaves pleased.” Doc knows the timing of the ranch’s purchase—during a tough economy—wasn’t in his favor but he’s hoping that the economy will soon turn around and “we’ll reap the rewards.” Now the biggest hurdle is to let the public know (and that’s where Ranchweb can help).
Saddle up (and other diversions)
There’s horseback riding, a Saturday night bonfire and hayride, fishing or row boating out on the lake if you’re into nature. If you’re not so much into the great outdoors, there’s always tennis or basketball, horseshoes, board games, and an indoor pool. In the evening, hang out at the country western nightclub or check out the cable TV on a flat screen.
Not into horses? That’s okay: ride the trails on your own ATV or snowmobile. Enjoy stargazing in the ranch’s clear night skies; shoot skeet or archery on the rifle range (the ranch also offers a hunter package the first three days of the deer rifle season). Golfing is 15 minutes away. Any season, there’s plenty of fun at the Malibu Ranch.
“Come cowboy with us and keep the tradition of an East Coast ranch alive!” Doc says. “We’re only an hour’s drive from Manhattan, about two hours from Philadelphia, and three hours from Boston.”
Details: Malibu Dude Ranch is set in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, a 3-mile drive from Milford and 75 miles from NYC. It makes a great location for family vacations, reunions, and anniversaries and is a place for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to earn merit badges (ask about group rates). Stay in private cabins among the trees, chalet and motel style rooms near the main lodge, or in the lodge itself. Not ready for a full commitment yet? Ride the ranch’s horses by the hour, take lessons, or bring your own and board your horse here.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photos by Teresa Crerand
SMART RANCH TRAVELER
Hey Mom, let’s say you did all the right planning. You surfed the web and picked your place: you found THE perfect ranch for your family’s special package of needs. Okay, smartypants, now what? How do you actually get the family ready for a guest ranch stay?
Well, Ranchweb can be a great resource there. Check the ‘Ranch Categories’ section to find out if your chosen place meets your specific needs regarding Computer use, children’s programs, pet’s welcome, and so forth. Then, make a quick call to the ranch itself to brush up on some facts at that perfect ranch you’ve chosen. Here’s what you’ll wanna know:
*Want to bring a pet? It is an option at many ranches (check Ranchweb’s list of Ranch Categories/Pets Welcome). But please ask what the ranch policy is first. Many ranches prohibit pets, as their safety may be at risk (among the cattle, herd of horses, and ranch dogs). Some pet friendly ranches: 320 Guest Ranch, the Coulter Lake Guest Ranch, (below right), or the Diamond D Ranch.
*What’s the weather usually like at the time you’re booked? And is altitude an issue (many ranches are in the mountains, and if your child has asthma or other breathing problems or allergies, you may want to pack an extra inhaler or antihistimine).
*What is included in the rate you were quoted? Typical rates are all-inclusive, (covering meals, horseback riding, all facilities, children’s and teen supervision, special programming). But maybe you’ve chosen a special discount rate–double check. And of course find out if sometimes extra options, like spa treatments and trap shooting or fly fishing school are extra—you’ll want to know that ahead.
*Find out the check-in/check-out times—this is not a hotel, so rules vary. Commonly, check in is at 2 PM and check out by 10 AM is typical, but exceptions may be made individually.
*Ask out how many kids of your children’s ages will be there when you’re there. And then, tell your kids so they know they’ll have some buds to hang with.
*Find out if the ranch has a liquor license and, if not, what their policy is about guests bringing their own bottles. (Some ranches will let you bring your own bottles but ask you not to consume it in the public areas, in order to preserve a family atmosphere. Check ahead.)
*Are serious medical concerns a possibility for you or the kids? Ask if the ranch staff is Red Cross First Aid certified and where the nearest hospital emergency room is located and how long it takes to reach. With serious medical issues, you may want to select a ranch that’s fairly handy to a city.
*If you’re a smoker, you’ve gotta ask about the ranch’s smoking policy. In Colorado, for example, a law restricts smoking in public places so you’ll be asked to step outside before you light up. Many ranch cabins are non-smoking now, as well.
*Those who need to stay connected (and who doesn’t, these days?) should ask about cell phone and internet service; both are possible at more and more ranches now, but be sure to confirm your ranch’s availability.
And remember, you can always check Ranchweb for your answers!
Next week, we’ll tell you how to get your family ready for the trip! Stay tuned…
Just saw the latest issue of Luxury Las Vegas, a hot new upscale magazine. On page 49 you’ll see the first pages of a multiple spread story that features Ranchweb’s own Gene Kilgore, discussing the benefits of a ranch vacation.
And there’s more good news for the dude ranch vacation business: five Ranchweb member resorts got big play in the story: Resort at Paws Up, Vista Verde, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Rancho de los Caballeros, and the Ranch at Rock Creek. Our thanks to author Kara Williams and Luxury Las Vegas Magazine!
Searching out the right ranch for your kids can be a little daunting, thanks to an amazing range of choices. And you can’t just Google up the perfect spot for your family. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help out there. Our partner website, Ranchweb.com offers several special features to help narrow your choices.
With moms, finding the ranch that makes the kids happy often means they’ve found the ranch that will make everyone in the family happy. First, profile your kids: perhaps your child has a love for the outdoors and wants to learn something about nature by spending time on a ranch. Or maybe their idea of fun is learning how to fly fish, draw, take photographs, swim, practice archery, identify birds, or, yes, ride a horse. And maybe Mom just wants to give her kids a chance to put down the Gameboy and have some quality time with Mom and Pop.
Okay, so how to find that ideal ranch? First, ask yourself some key questions. Are you interested in a child-oriented ranch or one where child care is provided? How important is the kind of riding program available (and how much of your visit do you want to spend in the saddle)? Then, if finding a focus on learning fishing, nature walks, photography, or other sports are on the family’s list, you’ll want to scope out each ranches’ level of offerings in those activities.
One question every kid will ask his parents about the ranch they choose to visit is: ‘Will there be any kids my age there?’ Just ask. The ranch will be able to tell you right away. There are some ranches that are designed especially for families with kids. And Ranchweb.com has a section listing those ranches with special facilites, menus, and programs designed for kids.
Remember, you can’t push a kid into a program, just give them choices. Finding people who really enjoy working with kids is the secret to success at any ranch. Try to find out how the ranch works in hiring young staffers—from wranglers to baby sitters— who have a passion for working with children and teenagers. But be careful what you wish for—your child could try his hand at a little fly fishing with a ranch guide and end up wanting his own waders and angling gear!
And if there’s a kid who just can’t unplug from the Internet or cell phone, you’ll want to check out the ranch connections (they’re not all as remote as you think). Whatever you want, there’s sure to be a dude ranch perfect for your needs, and it’s just a click away!
Ranchweb’s exclusive Space Availability Finder & Dude Ranch and Guest Ranch Search Engine lets you find ranches and lodges that meet your preferences (for example, choose by price range, ranch activities you want, or whether or not you will be traveling with children). Narrow the list by selecting a specific state, province or country, then click one of the resulting ranches or lodges to find details on activities, accommodations, rates, food, kid’s programs and more, plus photographs.
TIPS FROM THE RANCHERS
Kiplinger’s Magazine recently did a story titled “24 Best Travel Sites to Save You Money: Find the best deals online for plane tickets, hotel rooms, vacation packages and car rentals, both at home and abroad.” They divided it into categories like airfare (tops: Kayak.com), lodging (tops: Hotels.com), vacation packages (tops: Cruisecompete.com) and so forth. They could have also added Dude Ranch Vacations (tops: Ranchweb.com).
We like Kiplinger’s 24 picks (Read more: http://www.kiplinger.com/features/archives/best-travel-sites-to-save-you-money.html#ixzz1qu4cQcp8 ). But we and the ranchers we talked to have our own faves.
Kayak.com, expedia.com, Expedia.com, Orbitz.com,Travelocity.com, Sidestep.com
Travelzoo.com. But don’t miss these less well known sites: Lastminute.com, Skyauction.com, Dogpile.com, Accona.com, Quikbook.com, andUniversity Hotel Network.
Try mtSOBEK.com, Family Travel Network.com.
And of course when you’re dreaming of that perfect ranch vacation, we like Ranchweb.com (but then, we’re biased)!
For specialty ranch vacation info:
At Ranchweb.com, you’ll find details on sites specifically designed for:
FlyFishing Ranches and Lodges
Luxury Ranch Real Estate
Dude Ranch Jobs
Arizona Dude Ranches
Colorado Dude Ranches
Montana Dude Ranches
Wyoming Dude Ranches
Details: find links to all of these sites at: http://www.ranchweb.com/links
Smart Ranch Traveler
Moms are often the ones who end up doing the background research for any vacation. That’s especially true when they’re hunting for a dude or guest ranch vacation for the family. Any mom would agree: it’s always good to start your selection process early. But even August isn’t too late-ask about cancellations. (In fact, you can find some great last-minute bargains even in dude ranching’s high season– see item below).
Begin asking friends and family if they’ve been to a good dude ranch (posting a query on Facebook is guarenteed to garner some good ideas). Then, on the Internet, start with sites that narrow the search (like Ranchweb, the Dude Ranchers Association, and state tourism sites). Query ‘last minute deals’ or click over to thhe site’s deals section (like http://www.ranchweb.com/special.htm).
Then work the phones. When you’ve selected your top choice ranches, ask each for a list of past guests that wouldn’t mind a call from you (that is, guests who came with kids). Then call and ask if they have time for a few questions about their ranch stay: how child-oriented they felt the ranch was; what kinds of kid-programs they participated in and what ages the programs worked best for; what their kids really loved (or not) about the ranch.
Finally, ask if you can get a short taste of ranch life for you and your family. Most ranches request that you stay at least a week, but some kid-friendly ranches, like California’s Rankin Ranch, allow stays as short as one night.
See if there’s anything out-of-the-ordinary the parents suggest you should bring for the kids when they visit a ranch. You might get some surprising answers. And if your “little dudes” have any special considerations, mention them; if their children share those considerations, you’ll find out how the ranch accommodated them. You’re sure to get some great ideas from the vast—and helpful—network of parents out there. And you might even make a new phone friend.
Details: great ranches for kids are easy to find on the Ranchweb site. Go to the category ’selecting a ranch’, then click on ‘for kids’.
Canada’s Echo Valley Ranch & Spa is calling you, girlfriend
In beautiful British Columbia, Echo Valley Ranch and Spa is calling all ‘wannabe’ cowgirls. If you’ve ever wanted to ride the range and throw a lasso, yet still like a little luxury at the end of the day, then the Echo Valley Ranch girls getaway is a vacation to think about.
Start your day with an early morning Thai yoga class, then saddle up and ride the golden hills of British Columbia’s eastern side, taking a break to enjoy one of chef’s gourmet picnic lunches. At the end of the day, you can restore your mind and body with an Asian or European spa treatment, then watch the sun go down.
Priced per night from $605, this vacation isn’t for budget-minded gals, but it can include: One half day horseback ride and wilderness picnic; One signature Western or Asian spa treatment during the stay; Group manicure/pedicure; Lasso throwing lessons from the local cowboys; Self guided hiking program; Daily Thai yoga (Ruesri dat ton ) stretching classes, and more.
Details: To book the Girlfriends Getaway Package please contact Echo Valley at 800/253-8831 or email email@example.com
Summer/Fall Dude Ranch Deals
Right now is the right time to find great bargains in dude and guest ranch vacation. Take California’s Rankin Ranch, offering a 50% Discount: Rest and Relaxation Week October 2nd-5th. Or Colorado’s Laramie River Ranch: : 30% Discount for Adults Only Special in September! The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch has Home on The Range Summer Package. Colorado’s Elk Ranch has ‘the more the merrier’ 15% discount (check details); Wyoming’s 7D Ranch has 10 % discount weeks in September (adults only).
Details: Find these deals and more at http://www.ranchweb.com/special.htm
Tips from the ranchers
Match the right dude and guest ranch with your family’s needs
Our mission at Ranchweb is to help you match the right ranch with your family. When you get that perfect match, you can form a lifelong connection, and have a dude ranch vacation you’ll never forget. But what kind of ranch to visit–luxury resort, working cattle ranch, kids-oriented or spa-oriented, or a combo of several types? And do you want to go to Wyoming, Colorado, or a state much closer to home? Given the hundreds of dude ranches there are, finding that match can be like, well, herding cats.
At Ranchweb.com we’re here to help. Gene Kilgore and his team have personally visited ranches throughout the world, and have documented all the details (and photos) you could ever want about hundreds of ranches. And the amazing search programs at Ranchweb will make your search a computer-aided breeze. Click over to it and you’ll find several special features to help narrow your choices (and we provide detailed information on more than a hundred ranches located all over the country).
Check out our exclusive Space Availability Finder and the Dude Ranch and Guest Ranch Search Engine helps you check out ranches and lodges that meet your preferences. For example: the price range, ranch activities you want, and whether or not you will be traveling with children.
Then, narrow the list by selecting a specific state, province or country, and click one of the resulting ranches or lodges to find more details on activities, accommodations, rates, food, kid’s programs and an array of photographs.
Or just go to the Ranch Categories page, showing more than 100 categories designed to help you find ranches that meet your specific interests. Want to combine some fishing with your guest ranch vacation? Click on Fishing and more than 80 ranches show up. Golf? See about 75 ranches. Or look for ranches with spas, pack trips, winter programs, conference facilities, riding specialties, resorts, working cattle ranches, cattle drives, and so forth.
At Ranchweb’s Interactive Map, you get a bird’s-eye view of the area you would like to travel to. Click on an area of the map and zoom into a state or province to see a listing of dude ranches and guest ranches. Then, just click on a ranch listing for more information; use the navigation tools at the top or bottom of the page or use the back button on your browser to review additional ranches and lodges. Finding the right ranch for you and your family can be a breeze.
Hot off the presses: Gene Kilgore’s latest Dude Ranch Vacations guide
There’s a NEW BOOK coming out soon. Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations 2011 ($22.95), the ultimate guidebook to all the best dude and guest ranch resorts around. Featuring more than 100 ranches across the country and the world, the guide this year takes on a new format and an easier-to-use size. Featured on the cover is Montana’s newest ranch, the luxurious Ranch at Rock Creek.
The book, Ranch Vacations 2011, will be available on soon on Amazon and also on Ranchweb.com. Look for it!
Spring ranches: Arizona and California
It’s peak season in Arizona right now. From the Bar 10 Ranch to the White Stallion Ranch, Arizona has great spring weather and a ton of variety.
Bar 10 Ranch
Bar 10 is near the magnificent Grand Canyon and serves up a choice of western ranch activities, delicious country-style meals, and real western hospitality, and lets you combine your trip with an exciting river rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Its run by the Heatons, fifth generation ranchers on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
White Stallion Ranch
White Stallion is set in the wide open, unspoiled Arizona desert, yet is easy accessible to Tucson. With the the True family at the helm, White Stallion Ranch has established a reputation of caring about customer service and a real dedication to providing quality family vacations. The southwest ranch style cabins offer everything from small rooms for singles to deluxe suites. All rooms have plenty of comforts: air conditioning, private bath, tub/shower combination. Most have a queen bed plus a twin bed or a king and the deluxe suites have fireplace, whirlpool tub, king-size bed.
Ranches in the land of Hollywood, movie stars, and Silicon Valley? Yep! Ranching has a long and fabled tradition in the golden state, and you can still tap into that history at some seven dude and guest ranches here, from the lovely Alisal Guest Ranch in SoCal to the luxurious Sierra Ranch Retreat in the high country. Spring is glorious in California (and so are the spring package deals).
Alisal Guest Ranch
Golf, horseback riding programs, and fabulous dining. A storied past includes visits from the Reagans, the Clark Gables, and many more celebs who didn’t want their names mentioned (no pictures, please!). What more could you ask (except, maybe 73 cottages range from one-bedroom studios to executive suites).
Sierra Ranch Retreat
In the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sierra Ranch Retreat is just two hours by car from Reno and a world away from stress. This six- bedroom custom-built log home features six river rock wood burning fireplaces, a complete gourmet kitchen, private baths in each room, Jacuzzi tubs and spectacular views. This is just the place when you want your vacation to be truly “one of a kind.”
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